It has been several hours since the execution of Saddam Hussein. In some quarters, this event has brought wild rejoicing, in others, profound mourning, and in still others, sober reflection.
One sentiment that is unquestionably needed in every quarter is sympathy and affection for his family. Regardless of what is widely reported as a tyrannical life, he did have a family. Many of those family members must have loved him and been loved by him. Most of them are guiltless, and they deserve humanity's tender solicitude at this difficult period. It is a time for universal affection, not sectarian contempt.
The situation with Mr. Hussein himself seems more complex. He was accused of the most inhumane and merciless treatment of his fellow man. The evidence at his trial seemed unrelentingly unsupportive of his protests of innocence. Is there cause for forgiveness and mercy?
Sometimes society uses the scaffold with meticulous attention to human justice, other times as an exercise of raw revenge. To some today, the jury is still out on the fairness of Hussein's trial.
But is there another use of the scaffold, beyond either human justice or revenge? The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, refers to the scaffold as an instrument of discipline (see "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 202) as a way to awaken individuals to their higher natures as offspring of God. The theology of Christian Science clearly teaches the goodness of man as a reflection of the wholly good God. His man never sins or departs from holiness. He is incapable of inhumanity, mercilessness, or self-ignorant remorselessness. He never needs discipline.
Humans sometimes need discipline desperately. Circumstances, as in a police state, can temporarily insulate tyrants from responsibility for their crimes. In fact, don't most of us to some degree believe we can sin without fear of punishment?
But none of us can avoid the justice of God, who is ever-present divine Love, any more than we can void the laws of mathematics. Bravado is not the equal of real control. We all must answer to truth and labor to conform our lives to the divine standard. Christ Jesus explained we must do this out of simple obedience to God, and his masterful Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7) explains clearly the power of humility and meekness to awaken us to our real natures of kindness and humanity.
Isn't a secret to a noble life to awaken to such humility before God that we feel deep and honest humanity for our fellow man?
That awakening always can come before the discipline of the scaffold. Sometimes it doesn't.
By accounts of those present, Hussein did not avail himself of the opportunity to express remorse for his well-documented crimes, sorrow for the suffering of victims, even if he were not the cause, nor even affection for his family. If those reports are true, they may indicate a character steeled in self-justification but terribly lacking in compassion.
But he will awaken, as will we all.
Few except those who have experienced what is known as a near death experience can speak with authority about death and life afterward. Mrs. Eddy wrote from the benefit of spiritual insight that death is not a stepping stone into paradise, but that those who die have "passed through a moment of extreme mortal fear, to awaken with thoughts, and being, as material as before" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1886," p. 42).
We all have the right to pray that our own awakening to man's true nature may come now, this very moment. We also have the right to pray that Mr. Hussein's awakening comes sooner rather than later. We all have destinies of good to fulfill for the race. Regardless of the wickedness we may have done, repentance, forgiveness, and nobility await us all. Our lives of quiet dignity and blessing surely will appear one day. God will not be denied.